Friday, December 04, 2015

Frugal Fridays: Make it Meatless! (Part Two)

Last Frugal Friday, I decided to tackle the monumental task of a meatless cooking post (it's here if you like)! It was so huge that I had to continue it in a second post! As I explained in that post, opting to eat vegetarian or even vegan meals fairly regularly (even as little as once a week) can really save you some cash.  Meat products can be quite expensive.  So can some meat substitutes. . . but there are others that are cheap and delicious.  While many people hesitate to opt for vegetarian meals because they worry they won't feel full or have the misconception that they will somehow be lacking in iron and protein, that simply isn't true.

For comparison's sake, here are the stats on two commonly- recommended "cheaper" meat choices and last week's two "winners" - meat alternatives that are inexpensive while also being high in protein and iron.  The costs are from (where possible) and the nutritional content is through Google (I think they use Wikipedia) as well as when not available elsewhere.  I'm focusing on calories, protein and iron since that's usually what people ask vegetarians and vegans about, in my experience.  More protein will make you feel fuller so in terms of a healthy diet, higher protein in fewer calories is a plus.

Cost per kg Cost per serving (100g) Calories per serving Protein per serving Iron per serving
Ground Beef $12.75 $1.28 332 cals 14g 8% DV
Chicken $7.58 $0.75 239 cals 27g 7% DV
Chickpeas About $1.10 (dry) - $6.00 (canned About $0.11 (dry) - $0.60 (canned) 364 cals 19g 34% DV
Black Beans About $1.10 (dry) - $6.00 (canned About $0.11 (dry) - $0.60 (canned) 339 cals 21g 48% DV

Last time, I covered "Gateway Subs" - those easy substitutions that you might already eat or can easily add into your diet without it being too much of a shock.  This week, I will tackle "Next Step Subs" which are a little further from the average diet but still easily found in most grocery stores.  And I will also introduce you to some "Say What? Super Subs" that you may never have heard of unless you are vegetarian/vegan and that you may have to pick up at a specialty shop (health food store, natural foods store, etc.) if you decide to try them out.

Next Step Subs:

Each of these might be new to your diet but can be found in most grocery stores without too much effort.  And I've included yummy recipes (most of which I have actually tried myself!) to inspire you to try them out.


What:          Tofu is made of soy (according to Wikipedia, soy milk is coagulated and then pressed into blocks).  It can be soft (or silken), firm or extra-firm and is most commonly used in East Asian and Southeast Asian dishes.
Cost:          About $3-4 per pound (depending on type and where you buy it) so let's say approximately $0.80 per 100g serving
Nutrition:     100g of tofu provides 8g of protein and 30% DV of iron in 76 calories
Best Uses:    Silken tofu can be used instead of yogurt, cream, etc. in smoothies and sauces. . . but I don't often use it since I don't have an issue with consuming dairy, personally.  Firm tofu has a texture more like cooked egg (scrambled or omelette) and can be used in stirfries, as an egg-replacement, etc.  Extra-firm tofu is probably the most flexible as it can be used in most places where one would use firm tofu and can also be served on its own as a steak, in a sandwich, breaded and fried - you name it! While tofu doesn't have much of a flavour on its own, one of its strengths is how well it takes on the flavours you cook it in/with. . . marinating tofu is a must! And, to get the best texture out of extra-firm tofu, try pressing it.


What:          Soba noodles are a buckwheat noodle.  We find them to be very filling, excellent in asian-inspired dishes (especially noodle salads and noodle bowls) and, the best part, our picky toddler likes them too!  If you're gluten-free, you can easily make or buy gluten-free soba noodles but many do include some regular flour unless they specifically state they are gluten-free.
Cost:            Depends where you buy it but sells 720g for $15.99, which works out to just over $2 per 100g.  Or you could make them yourself for the cost of some buckwheat flour and a little elbow grease :)
Nutrition:     100g of soba noodles contain 5g of protein, 2% DV of iron and 99 calories
Best Uses:    Asian-inspired dishes such as noodle bowls, cold noodle salads and soups


What:       Quinoa is a grain, widely touted as a superfood because of its nutritional content.  It cooks much like rice.  Oh, and it's pronounced "keen-wah" :)
Cost:            A 340g box of quinoa can cost about $5.50 or $3.24 per 100g serving but it can also be purchased in bulk for around $6.50/lb dropping that per serving cost to under $1.50
Nutrition:     A 100g serving of quinoa boasts 14g of protein plus 25% DV of iron in 368 calories (as well as a lot of fibre, magnesium, potassium and vitamin B-6 to boot)
Best Uses:    Quinoa can be used in place of rice or other grains in most applications - a base for casseroles, stirfries, bowls, etc. and in salads and soups.  Quinoa flour is an easy substitute to get a little more nutrition in your baked goods.


What:          Soybeans! You may have had them a a Japanese restaurant, served boiled and salted in the pod.  But they are good for so many other preparations too.  I like to think of them as a trade-up for peas and use them as such (out of their pods).  Bonus:  they can often be bought shelled, cooked and frozen just like green peas.
Cost:            Edamame can cost $3-4 per pound (depending on type and source which works out to $0.60-0.90 per 100g serving
Nutrition:     100g of edamame provide 11g of protein and 12% DV of iron in 122 calories
Best Uses:    Delicious on their own but also great in rice dishes, stirfries, bowls, noodle salads, etc.

Say What? Super Subs

While you may never have heard of these meat alternatives, they also make delicious, filling and healthful meals.  If you can't find them in your grocery store, you can likely pick them up at a health food store or natural foods market or even online sources! And in the case of the seitan, you could try making it yourself!


What:          Tempeh is, like tofu, a block made of soy.  Unlike tofu, however, the soybeans are cultured and fermented without processing them into a smooth, uniform texture.  This means that tempeh looks and feels like chunks of soybean stuck together.  It is often considered to be a healthier choice than tofu because it is less processed.  It is often sold pre-flavoured (curry, basil, etc.) but I prefer to purchase plain so I can season my dishes how I like them.  You might be able to find it in a well-stocked supermarket but I usually pick mine up at the health food store.  Or, if you're very brave, you could try making it yourself - I've never done it so if you do, let us know how it works out in the comments!
Cost:             A 240g block of tempeh can be purchased for $3.99 making for a per serving cost of $1.66
Nutrition:     100g of tempeh offers 19g of protein and 15% DV of iron in 193 calories
Best Uses:    Tempeh can be sliced, marinated and cooked to make "bacon" or other faux meats.  It also has a texture quite similar to ground meat when crumbled so makes for excellent meatballs, and a great addition to casseroles and pasta sauces which would traditionally use ground meat.


What:          Wheat meat, sometimes called "mock duck", is a meat substitute made of gluten.  Gluten-free folks, just go ahead and skip this section.  Everyone else? Gluten is the stuff that gives bread its soft, stretchy texture (good bread, that is) and its protein.  It can be used to make a loaf that mimicks chicken or beef (depending on seasonings) pretty effectively.  There are even some great seitan-based sausages out there too.  We love it! While you can purchase seitan in a well-stocked shop (ie. one that's not obsessed with gluten-free everything), we find it more cost effective to pick up a bag of "vital wheat gluten" and make our own so I'll include those recipes below as well.
Cost:             224g of pre-made seitan can be purchased for $5.35 making $2.39 the cost for a 100g serving.  623g of of vital wheat gluten can be purchased for $11.49 and will make at least 2 lbs of homemade seitan (depending on the recipe) - $1.27 per serving.
Nutrition:     100g of seitan provides a whopping 75g of protein, 28% DV of iron and 370 calories! Holy protein, Batman!
Best Uses:    We tend to use seitan in dishes where beef would ordinarily be happy - stroganoff, stews, etc.  And, of course, sausages.  It can also sub pretty well for chicken if you don't eat poultry.  It's a really versatile option!


What:          Textured Vegetable Protein is a soy-based, gluten-free, shelf-stable meat substitute.  It comes in bags or tubs like flour and needs to be used in recipes which will re-hydrate it like soups, chilis, etc.  or it should be re-hydrated prior to adding to other recipes (by soaking it in hot water).  It's not my fave to be honest although I will sometimes eat it in those little soup cups that you just add water to.
Cost:            283g of TVP can be purchased for $2.99; since it triples (approximate) in size when cooked, the cost for a 100g serving is about $0.35
Nutrition:     100g of TVP offers 50g of protein, 63% DV of iron and 333 calories
Best Uses:    TVP has a texture a bit like ground meat and is best used in soups, stews, etc.
Recipes:        *As I said, TVP isn't something I would normally eat so these recipes are untried by me. . . but they look pretty good.


What:          It's a fruit that you've probably never had - neither have I - but a lot of food bloggers are getting into Jackfruit and it's being hailed as a "miracle food" (see here).  So we might be seeing more of it in the future.  It can be purchased canned or frozen too.
Cost:            530ml canned jackfruit in syrup can be purchased for $2.27 - that's about $0.45 per serving
Nutrition:     100g of jackfruit provides 1.7g of protein, 1% DV of iron and 96 calories (plus lots of vitamin C because it's a fruit)
Best Uses:    It can be eaten as a fruit or cooked and served in dishes like curries.  I've even seen "barbecue" jackfruit sandwiches.  Judging from the recipes I'm finding, it can sub for beef (like shredded beef) or crab pretty well.
Recipes:        *I've never tried jackfruit either so I can't vouch for these recipes personally, but I'd love to try them. . . I just need to track down some jackfruit!


Still more options to ditch the meat from your meals - even just one day a week - and, usually, save some money (or gain some health benefits) in the process!  Here's the handy recap chart:

And, as last time, I've highlighted those foods that are often under $1 per serving, over 10g of protein per serving and over 15% daily value of iron per serving.  I've included my two meats for comparison, as well as the top of the class from last post:  chickpeas and black beans.

Cost per serving (100g unless otherwise specified)
Calories per serving
Protein per serving
Iron per serving
Ground Beef
332 cals
8% DV
239 cals
7% DV
$0.60 canned, $0.11 dried
364 cals
34% DV
Black Beans
$0.60 canned, $0.11 dried
339 cals
48% DV
30% DV
About $2 ready-made
2% DV
$1.50 - $3.24
25% DV
12% DV
15% DV
About $2.39 ready-made, $1.27 homemade
28% DV
63% DV
About $0.45 canned
1% DV

Maybe I should give TVP another shot? And I'll definitely be continuing to make my own seitan as well :)  How about you? Inspired?

Until next time, happy shopping!


  1. I'm a big meatatarian, but proud that there were only one or two items I dont recognize. :)